Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Freakbeat Troggs Covers Part One


















JET HARRIS-My Lady/You Don't Live Twice U.K. Fontana TF 849 1967

Now we're onto something so positively weird: when a has been early 60's British rock n' roll figure does a one off weird freakbeat record. Moody looking bassist Jet Harris left The Shadows in 1962 to do his own thing with fellow Shad Tony Meehan as a duo. They had a few hit records in '63 but Jet's career took a turn for the worst when he wound up in a nasty car accident with his piece on the side, singer Billie Davis (he was married at the time) where he suffered some severe head injuries which kept him out of work for awhile. By 1964 Merseybeat and r&b had all but annihilated instrumental acts in the charts and the singles stopped coming and he was out of the news. He was allegedly slated to play bass in the Jeff Beck Group, where it was reported he'd been sacked for his drinking problem.

In 1967 he bounced back with this interesting choice, produced and arranged by his old pal Tony Meehan (not Reg Presley as it's often been suggested, unless he went uncredited). It's an odd choice as there aren't a large number of Trogg's tunes that were released as A-Sides. But it works. It's much faster than The Trogg's version and Jet's phrasing is amusingly overdone by drawling the last syllable the last word of each verse; "my lady owns and oil welllllllla", don't get me wrong he's actually got a decent set of pipe's for a guy who made a career of playing instrumentals. What makes it really cool is instead of the weird recorder on The Trogg's take this one has a flute and some wigged out guitar worthy of a Joe Meek record AND a full brass section. It's all capped off by some echoey-psychedelic sound affects that close the number. It's easily WAY better than the original. The flip "You Don't Live Twice" is more of a crooner type number but it's backed by some cool horns that descend with the number (and play snippets of the "My Girl" riff at one point), there's some Floyd Cramer-esque piano thrown in and like on the A-side Jet's voice isn't bad at all! Both sides were well put together by Meehan but sadly the record went nowhere and this was Jet's last major label release ever.

"My Lady" cropped up on a bootleg CD compilation "Justifixation" several years back, but the flip has eluded compilers, for now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Of Bowie Men And Purple Pill Eaters........




















THE WILD ONES-Bowie Man/Purple Pill Eater Fontana TF 468 U.K. 1964

As I've explored in an earlier blog (see Mickey Finn & the Blue Men December 15, 2008) British r&b bands dabbled in Blue Beat/ska quite a bit, nothing new here right? As I have yet to delve into my fave 60's musical subject (the 60's career of David Bowie) so this offers somewhat of an odd connection of the two, sort of......

I have no clue as to who The Wild Ones were or what became of them. I was introduced to them in 1982 as a young mod on a shopping trip by bus to Woodbridge Center with a pocket full of birthday cash. I plunked down my $ on several Atlantic re-issues of 60's soul 45's, a few '79 mod LP's AND "Pebbles Volume Six:The Roots Of Mod". I'm not sure why I bought it but the word "MOD" on the cover (complete with a bulls eye for the "o" ) might have had more to do with it. This LP opened my ears to a host of rare/gritty 60's tracks by British r&b bands I'd be hearing more of later in life and in some cases actually owning the actual 45's of when I stopped relying on birthday loot to fuel my record passion. The Wild One's contribution to this compilation was their single's A-side "Bowie Man". It's an interesting choice of title as David Bowie had ZERO to do with the band and it came out a full two years before he switched his surname from Jones to Bowie. In fact at the time he was fronting the short lived Davy Jones & The King Bees, responsible for one of the rarest British r&b 45's "Liza Jane/Louie Go Home" (Vocallion V9221), so despite what you've read on some stupid liner note or ill informed fanzine (like erm..."Smashed Blocked", the one from NJ) there is no Bowie connection. In fact the only connection between Bowie and The Wild Ones is that both of their 45's shared the same music publisher (Dick James Music), but Dick James published a lot of 60's British 45's. All that rubbish aside let's get to the music.

"Bowie Man" is a raver. It is THE all time archetype solid, frenetic, frantic British 60's r&b number. It's got lots of maracas shakin', a snotty vocalist singing really fast and a wiggy fuzzy/distorted guitar solo worthy of any of those similar licks played by Jimmy Page on a host of many similar (though less impressive) British r&b 45's. I have no clue what a "Bowie Man" is and I'm no closer to understanding it as the lyrics don't make much sense, but when it's got a beat like this you won't care. The liner notes for "The Root Of Mod" mentioned the tune's flip "Purple Pill Eater" as being a comment on the purple heart shaped amphetamine (known as Drinamyl) use that was giving the U.K. tabloids plenty of copy in '64. Forget the same raving monster band that cut "Bowie Man", because on the flip we've got something radically different. The Drinamyl fueled A-side gives way to a kiff (that's cannabis for all you non-mods) inspired slow ska beat B-side with maracas but no frantic guitar solos and the more decipherable lyrics are delivered in a mock Caribbean island accent warning the listener of the dangers of the little purple pills. The band plays a slightly sloppy slow ska shuffle (much like the two Mickey Finn & the Blue Men "ska favored" singles) it's actually mildly entertaining and quite hysterical when you think about it, though not nearly as cringe worthy as Van Dyke & The Bambis "Doin' The Mod" (more on that one on my next blog entry perhaps).

"Bowie Man" has been reissued on the "Pebbles Volume Six" LP and on the "English Freakbeat Vol. Six" CD (essentially the "Pebbles.." LP w/ extra cuts) while "Purple Pill Eater" appears on "English Freakbeat Volume One" LP and I'm assuming, the CD too. All of these are c/o the late Greg Shaw's A.I.P./Bomp apparatus and are still available last time I noticed from Bomp's website.

"Bowie Man":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mWIQlFc-6s

"Purple Pill Eater":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cy6xX2oLWo

Friday, January 16, 2009

God Bless Bam Caruso Part Two



THE FLIES-House Of Love/It Had To Be You U.K. Decca F 12594 1967

One of the many joys of Bam Caruso records "Rubble" series is it introduced me to new bands I'd never heard of and furthered my listening experience for bands I'd heard other stuff by. I'd been familiar with The Flie's from their searing fuzzed out cover of The Monkees "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" from "The Great British Psychedelic Trip" LP. I purchased Bam Caruso's "Electric Crayon Set: Rubble Volume Five" and among the many groovy tracks was "House Of Love" by The Flies. Years later I actually found a 45 of it!

Flash back to the Melody Bar in New Brunswick, NJ in 1998, I'm spinning 45's with my pal Scott Belsky at our monthly DJ night "Hub City Soul". I decided to give one of my new purchases a test run on the crowd, who liked to dance. I'd always mixed up U.K. 60's soulful tinged stuff amongst the standard fare of U.S. 60's soul with pretty good results (The Quik, George Fame, The Action, The Nite People etc). Luckily for me the moment the needle hit the grooves on "House Of Love" the floor stayed packed and month after month it became my standard and a favorite of our faithful punters. Banish all thoughts of the same band who cut the mind melting freakbeat insanity that is/was their version of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone", this is something slightly different. Opening with pounding bass and sneering vocals "House Of Love" might not seem like a dancefloor groover but once it all falls into place with organ and high soulful backing vocals complete with "call and response" it is, as one man said, "a stone gass". The flip is dreadful, like so many U.K. 60's classics (ie Carnaby's "Jump and Dance") the B-side here makes you think two things; 1.) Is this even the same band? and 2.) Why did the back such a monster cut with such a lame track?

Luckily those of you who are interested can still get it on The Flies "The Complete Collection 1965-1968" CD or Bam Caruso's "Electric Crayon Set: Rubble Vol. Five".

Hear "The House Of Love":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSJbtFYLpEQ

THE FLIES Decca promo photo

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When Freakbeat Met Soul



THE KOOBAS-You'd Better Make Up Your Mind/A Place I Know U.K. Pye 7N1707 1966

The Koobas ( Stu Leathwood-vocals/rhythm guitar, Roy Morris-guitar, Keith Ellis-bass and Tony O'Reilly-drums)were from Liverpool. They were previously known as "The Kubas" and had a cut on the "Ferry Cross the Mersey" film soundtrack (but were sadly not in the film) before dropping the "u" and adding "oo" to their name. They were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith, who also managed the Creation. They'd cut one beat single as The Kubas ("I Love Her/Magic Potion" on Columbia DB 7451 in January 1965) before moving on to Pye records. Their first offering on Pye as The Kooba's was a competent version of Evie Sand's soul ballad "Take Me For A Little While" b/w "Somewhere In The Night" Pye 7N 17012 in December of 1965 (with numerous non-U.K. picture sleeves for the 45 showing the band in their black shirts and floral hipsters, including one in the U.S. on Kapp). Never commercially successful, the band had a somewhat decent following on the Continent (like most of the best 60's U.K. unsung heroes who never had a chart hit).


Their second single for Pye (and their final before moving onto Columbia for the next two final years of their career) was more interesting. Arriving in April of 1966 it coupled a cover of the Brooks O'Dell soul heart breaker "You'd Better Make Up Your Mind" with an original "A Place I Know", written by Leathwood and Ellis on the flip. Usually U.K. soul covers can go either way: lame (listen to any Keith Powell soul cover) or good (like, The Action!). By now The Koobas had shifted from a beat group to more of a mod/freakbeat type band with far more soul covers and guts to their music and period pics show them in patterned trousers and stripey sweaters/tennis shirts with center parted hair and onstage with Rickenbacker guitars. Their cover choice was fairly obscure and they made it their own by throwing in some fuzz guitar to play the original versions horn section's melody line. This earns it the "freakbeat" tag and vocalist Stu Leathwood's pipes are nice and strong but solemn enough to pull this one off perfectly. Truth be told I'd heard The Koobas version a good 15 years before the original! Flip it over and you've got a mid-tempo "mod" dancer with lots of lyrics about grooving, cool places and the like. It's accented by some high backing vocals and a funky beat and is a taste of the brilliant original material the band would soon be relying on over the next two years. There are two seperate appearances of the band on TV in Germany on "Beat Beat Beat" performing it live in November 1965 and September 1966 respectively!


Both sides have seen proper reissues: "You'd Better Make Up Your Mind" appeared on Sequel's "Doin' The Mod Volume Four:Ready Steady Stop" CD while "A Place I Know" graced "Doin The Mod Vol One:The Go Go Train". And you can see the band in all their flower patterned trouser glory doing the A-side live on German TV's "Beat Beat Beat" in 1966 here:


And them on "Thank Your Lucky Stars plugging it (miming of course):



"A Place I Know":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2evIVILgQSI

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unsung Great U.K. Psych Pop 45's




















OCTOPUS-Girlfriend/Laugh At The Poor Man Penny Farthing N51-1-8 Portugal 1970

Don't let the year "1970" fool you, there are plenty of good U.K. psych/pop 45's out there that sound like 1967. "Laugh At The Poor Man"/"Girlfriend" by Octopus is a perfect example. This was their first single and it appeared on Larry Page's newly launched Penny Farthing label (as PF 705 in the U.K.). The label featured a number of obscure acts and names but did introduce the U.K. to the Dutch act Shocking Blue as well as being a home for talented vocalist Samantha Jones. The single even got a release in Portugal where I scored my copy a few weeks ago, which is somewhat interesting as most Portuguese pressings of British records at that time came from hitmakers, making the debut recording of the relatively obscure Octopus a startling find! I recently heard from the band's guitarist Paul Griggs who tells me the band made a special trip to Portugal (with Samantha Jones) to promote the 45!
Octopus were formerly known as The Cortinas, who released one 45 on Polydor 56255 in 1968 called "Phoebes Flower Shop"(which popped up on the Strange Things Are Happening's "Circus Days Vol.5" CD) . At the time of the debut Octopus 45 the group were: Paul Griggs-vocals/guitars, Rick Williams-guitar, Nigel Griggs-bass(later to join Split Enz) and Brian Glasscock-drums.

"Girlfriend" is a perfect pop record. It's well produced and it's got these three tier harmonies that remind me of the first few Marmalade 45's (before they got crappy and began doing all those dreadful Macaulay-McLeod MOR pop pap numbers). The lyrics boast an amusing line (very obviously pre-sexual revolution) "and my wife, stays at home and works around the house all day" whilst being introspective from the point of view of a happily married man ("thinking back again I can remember very well, the girls I knew, the jukebox songs, the stories I can tell..."). The A-side, "Laugh at The Poor Man" is a bit more wiggy thanks to some wobbly phlanging on the guitar intro but equally entertaining. It almost reminds me of early Badfinger with a slight psychedelic tinge. Both tracks were produced by Larry Page and former Plastic Penny(then Troggs) bassist Tony Murray and are available as bonus cuts on the CD reissue of the band's hideously rare debut LP. Octopus went on to cut another single The River/ The Thief (Penny Farthing PEN 716) before issuing the previously mentioned LP.

Get the full story on Octopus at:
http://www.p.griggsy.btinternet.co.uk/Untitled/Oct1.html

And Paul Griggs book at:
http://www.diaryofamusician.com/

Walker VS Walker:The Final Straw?




THE WALKER BROTHERS:
SOLO JOHN/SOLO SCOTT E.P. Phillips BE 12597 U.K. 1966

Solo John: Sunny/Come Rain Or Come Shine

Solo Scott: The Gentle Rain/Mrs. Murphy

On a recent trip I scored a few 45's, this being one of them. Yes I don't buy vinyl anymore but there's always something fun in my Lisbon record goldmine(no names, a true anorak does not publically disclose his sources). I'd recently purchased the Scott Walker U.K. DVD documentary "30th Century Man" from Amazon.co.uk (which was waiting for me when I got home) and lo and behold this E.P. gets a mention in it! There's no point in running down any Walker Brothers history, anyone who knows about them will tell you Scott was the talented one. Scott gets the fame thanks to his solo career, Gary gets heavy duty street cred with me because of his amazing post-Walkers freakbeat band Gary Walker & The Rain (responsibile for an amazing but horribly rare Japanese only LP "Album No.1" and some equally cool 45's) and then there's John. What's John known for? Not being as talented.

This E.P. was no doubt in some small way responsible for the rift in the band that led to their split right after their 3rd LP "Images". It's pretty much a given that Scott had the better voice of the three Walkers so it was a severe shot in the foot by whoever had decided that two Walkers be given separate billing on an E.P. Scott had just returned from the Quarr Monastery (where the press stated he'd gone to escape the pressures of life, Walker later stated in an interview a few years back that he'd gone there to learn Gregorian chants) and had been writing material which little by little was gaining a foothold in a band largely reliant on other's compositions. This E.P. would unveil one of his best Walker's tracks that was a window into his signature compositions on his four solo Lp's.

John Maus's (nee Walker) opening E.P. cut, a version of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" is pointless. The original (as well as a cover by Georgie Fame) were both previously U.K. hits. In fact Fame's version had just reached it's top position (#11) on the U.K. charts a few weeks before this E.P hit the streets. Maus's reading is bland and listless. It's only noteworthy item is the James Bond "007" melody/lick added after the main chorus. His other contribution, the lushly orchestrated "Come Rain Or Come Shine" is not so much as terrible, it's just god awful boring MOR crooner material and it's not helped by his vocal inability. Scott Engel's (nee Walker) contributions are FAR more noteworthy. To be fair and quite perfectly honest, Scott's first cut "The Gentle Rain" is equally boring MOR crooner pap despite sweeping strings (c/o the famous Reg Guest). The next and final cut of the E.P. is "Mrs. Murphy", a Scott Engel original which is well worth the price and sits as the crown jewel on this otherwise lackluster MOR E.P. It's spine tingling intro and sombre strings/woodwind backing is downright brilliant (akin to something on David Bowie's debut LP) with the trademark Walker Brother's Spector-esque tambourine, drums and bass thundering in after the first verse. The lyrics are akin to the social observations that would appear on his later solo work like "Montague Terrace" or "The Amorous Humphrey Plugg". "Mrs. Murphy" is lyrically snippets of apartment building gossip between tenants Mrs. Murphy and Mr. Wilson in a bleak style that evokes British b&w kitchen sink dramas like "A Taste Of Honey" complete with a married woman's (Mrs. Johnson) baby borne by a young man in the building ("poor Mr. Johnson being married to a wife who should be caged, it's the child who will suffer and to think that young man is half her age..."), a relationship that continues after the baby's birth as the last line betrays. Gritty stuff for 1966 England, especially from a band/artist who's audience were screaming teenyboppers more interested in grabbing a hunk or their hair or a scrap of the clothes than actually listening to the lyrics, an issue that would plague Mr. Engel through to his solo career.

All four E.P. cuts appears as bonus tracks on the Phillips reissue CD of the Walker Brothers LP "Portrait".

"Mrs. Murphy":



"Come Rain Or Come Shine":